Spider mission accomplished

I survived my first day of field work, although right now I’m feeling every square millimeter of my left trapezius muscle — all that stooping and stretching and poking exacerbated all my existing aches and pains. Also, it was hot, up around 30°C, which I think is the major limiting factor in how long we can keep it up. Did you know that most people don’t have air-conditioned garages? It’s true!

We surveyed half a dozen houses, which is what I hoped we could accomplish, so we’re right on track. I’m hoping to reach around 30 houses this week. There’s not much we can say from such a preliminary sample, but we have a couple of suggestive observations. The older the house, the more spiders. The most heavily populated garage had 37 active spiders on the walls, and 17 egg cases — we’re looking forward to seeing the population explosion there next month. The most sparsely populated had 1.

Almost all the spiders were either Pholcidae or Theridiidae, and curiously, their numbers were inversely correlated to one another. It could be a sign of a competitive interaction, or some subtle detail in the environment of these buildings that favors one over the other. Or it could just be our tiny sample size so far. We found only three spiders total that didn’t belong to those two families — I have to key them out this evening.

I also have to plug all the data into the computer, too. I’m practicing a little data security: there’s one key sheet with the addresses and a code, and then the data for each house is stored in paper files under that code, and also recorded in a database. I didn’t know if that would be necessary, but two people asked me if we’d keep the numbers confidential — I guess there’s some concern that one doesn’t want one’s home known as spider-infested. I would think that would increase the property value, but that’s just me.

Now I have to recover over night, and do it again tomorrow and the day after. Sunday shall be a day of rest, sort of. I’ve got about 30 spiders in the colony that will need some TLC that day.

Look at this beautiful beast! You’re missing out if you aren’t on our spider survey.


  1. chigau (違う) says

    You must go back to professoring in September, right?
    What then?
    That photo is gorgeous.
    How big is the subject?
    We archaeologists often carry a small scale, marked off in centimetres, to include in the photo.
    It beats putting a smoke or your bic for scale.

  2. says

    chigau: My friend Mike, whenever I take a picture of him against scenery of any sort, always pulls out a quarter and holds it up. “For scale.”

  3. chigau (違う) says

    Kip T.W.
    I would like to buy your Mike a beverage of his choice.
    Even though, I suspect, that joke far pre-dates cameras.

  4. numerobis says

    I would think that would increase the property value, but that’s just me.

    I was just earlier musing that if the few stocks I’ve bought, if I think it’s a great idea it loses money. If I’m buying it by throwing a dart at the newspaper, it does well.

    I think I might be weird. And you might be too.

  5. Forrest Phelps says

    When you are ready to expand your glorious spider brigade, feel free to include Northwest of St. Louis for a chapter. We have the infamous Loxosceles reclusa, three of which I’ve captured and released in the last 18 hours. Wonderful way to encourage the wee ones to pick their clothes up off the floor.

  6. weylguy says

    Myers’ “beautiful beast” filled me with horror. I can’t get over my visceral fear of spiders, but it has me wondering why arachnophobia is so prevalent. Most spiders aren’t deadly to humans, so why the fear? Snakes don’t bother me at all.

  7. azpaul3 says

    Spider Mission? I think not Doctor.You’re planting homing beacons for aliens.
    Cthulhu. Your real master. The spider thing is just a ruse to confuse everyone.
    Or is there another?
    Who are these invaders you summon? A race of arachnids?

  8. pgmoni says

    Pholcidae are specialist spider hunters, so the inverse correlation is not surprising….

  9. says

    Tentative ID for that spider is genus Eratigena, family Agelenidae. Not shown is that I tore away a large funnel web to expose it.

  10. archangelospumoni says

    As long as folks are thinking about//working with cool bugs, be extra VERY cool and become a beekeeper.
    It’s cool, easy, fun, and good.
    Archangelo Spumoni

  11. davidc1 says

    “Pholcidae are specialist spider hunters,”
    Are them the critters with the long legs and the elongated body?
    I don’t mind them .it’s the things wot the Doc showed us a photo of that freak me out .

  12. mountainbob says

    For size comparison, consider the mouse droppings in the picture. Also note the growth rings on the exposed structural member. She’s a pretty large critter for those northern climes, I’d opine. We have some larger ones out here, but the climate is more conducive to arachnid culture than Myers’s “home on the prairie.”